About a month ago I wrote about what seems to be the more prevalent pronunciation of Beijing, namely that involving the postalveolar voiced fricative [ʒ]. Recently an AP article was written that aims to clear everything up and explain that, in fact the “hard j” sound in English is a closer approximation to the Mandarin pronunciation than the “soft j” sound that I (and others) find so frustrating. The main source of the article is not native Mandarin speakers, but S. Robert Ramsey (whose book on Chinese I mentioned about three years ago). Bill Poser discusses the article on LL.
So, this is all to the good, no? I suppose…but then again, I find I usually pronounce the name of the city Shanghai so that the first vowel is that of hang or fang, not that of father. This despite knowing full well the Mandarin pronunciation (which, as the official language, I would take to be the expected way for a foreigner to say the word, rather than in Shanghainese). In this case, the low mid-vowel is both the more proper and more foreign sounding option, and yet I do not frequently use it (at least, I don’t think I do, unless speaking with, say, a Chinese-speaker). Is Shanghai really that different from Beijing? And this is to say nothing of Seoul (which I render with a single syllable). Maybe I’m just a super-Anglicizer, and in the case of Beijing it happens to work out.
And for some sane arguments in favor of Beizhing, I recommend this entry in Beijing Sounds.